Gerry Adams was born on October 6, 1948, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He took part in the Catholic civil rights protests of his home region before being imprisoned as a suspected IRA leader. After his release, he turned to political methods of calling for Irish unification and independence as the head of Sinn Féin, with the Belfast Agreement eventually signed in 1998. Adams is also a noted author.
Gerard "Gerry" Adams was born on October 6, 1948, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The large family was of Catholic background, and years later Adams wrote of the persecution suffered by the region's religious minority under British control.
Ireland, or the Irish Republic, gained the right to self-governance in the early 1920s as a result of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, while the mostly Protestant six counties of Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom. Catholic, or nationalist, parties pushed for unification of N. Ireland with the Irish Republic.
The Adams family members were known activists, though it was later revealed that Adams' father was a physically and sexually abusive presence in the home, with one of Adams' brothers facing similar allegations as well.
Having initially worked as a bartender, Adams participated in the N. Ireland Catholic civil rights protests that took place towards the end of the 1960s. The Londonderry march of 1968 saw the beginning of decades of conflict in Northern Ireland in what would be referred to as The Troubles, where thousands of people were killed.
With extremist activity seen on both sides, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) existed as an illegal paramilitary unit; questions abounded for years around how deeply and directly Adams was involved in the armed guerrilla/terrorist operations of the organization, whose actions claimed the lives of scores of civilians.
Heads Sinn Féin
As a suspected top IRA operative, Adams was arrested and held as a prisoner by the British during much of the 1970s. Upon his release, Adams turned decidedly to political strategies. In 1983 he was elected the head of Sinn Féin, the IRA's political party, as well as to the British parliament, though he didn't take his seat due to the tradition of pledging allegiance to the monarchy.
Some time after the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, Adams met privately with John Hume, the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, which was committed to nonviolent methods of Irish unification. The two leaders reached various points of agreement by the early 1990s, and by 1994, with approval by the U.S. Clinton administration, Adams was allowed to travel to New York City and speak on behalf of his party.
Signing of Belfast Agreement
An initial IRA ceasefire was reached in 1994, and the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement was eventually signed in 1998, helping to establish self-rule in Northern Ireland with a multi-party system and also establishing electoral parameters for any future merging with the Irish Republic. Nonetheless, violence still flared and the demilitarization of the IRA wouldn't occur until the following decade.
Adams has continued his political life, winning a seat in the newly created Northern Ireland Assembly during the summer of '98 and serving for more than a decade during some tumult. In 2011, Adams won a seat on the Irish Republic's House of Representatives, or Dáil, representing the Louth constituency.
Adams has also written more than a dozen books, including Before the Dawn: An Autobiography (1997), A Farther Shore: Ireland's Long Road to Peace (2003) and the short story collection The Street (1993).
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